Saturday, June 18, 2016


I love quilts. There's something so comforting and inviting about these hand-stitched blankets. It's not just their utilitarian purpose, to provide warmth, it's all of the love and care that goes into their creation. I have fond memories of watching my grandmother and great-grandmother putting hours and hours of labor into their quilts. My favorites were always the ones that were pieced out of the leftovers from previous quilts, or old shirts that found new life within the patched blanket. Those quilts often times had crazy color schemes which fantastically clashed, but that's what I loved about them. They were energetic and funky, and bright.  
Gangy (my grandmother) always kept a box full of scraps in her quilting studio for her grandkids. She taught her grandchildren how to thread a needle, piece the scraps, and hand stitch them together to create a quilt that I'm sure any tiny creature would have marveled at. I think about the patience she showed when teaching us each and every little step. I often think about those moments when I'm frustrated in teaching my own children tedious tasks. It takes a lot of patience to make a quilt. It takes a lot of patience to teach your children. And I'm not always the most patient person. Sometimes, like having to rip a seam and start over, I have to take pause, and start again with my children. But hopefully, with each little stitch sewn, each little patched seam, each little lesson taught, some crazy, beautiful, fantastically bright thing will emerge.

nessa dee

Monday, June 6, 2016

Revisions, Revisions, and More Revisions

I finally finished revisions on one of my picture books over the weekend. It's a simple story, wordless, yet full of surprises. It relies solely on the interaction between the two characters pictured above, and one object that ties them together in a unique way. The idea for the story came out of a conference workshop assignment to tell a sequential story in six or more images and attach them together, acpprdiban style. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I think I ended up with 20 images, and at the end of that breakout session, I was told that I should do something with the story. So I set to work, redesigning the characters and simplifying the entire look of the book.

When I first started attending SCBWI Conferences five years ago and heard writers and illustrators talk about revising their stories and pictures ten, twenty, thirty times, I was a bit overwhelmed by the thought of such a daunting task, especially having written stories and created illustrations which I loved. It's hard to want to change something you're so fond of, even harder when it took so much effort to finish it in the first place. Add to that a head full of stories and the time limits of being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and having a finished dummy book meant I could jump into the next project.

Fast forward five years... to this project. It's a project I started over a year ago, not too long ago in the realms of publishing, but in that year, I've drawn and redrawn, and revised, and revised again, and again. I've redesigned the bear multiple times, which meant redrawing him on every page of the book. I've thumbnailed out this entire book, at least ten, maybe twenty times. In one of those rethinks of the story, I came up with an entirely new story, a sequel if you will, which has been revised several times.  I realized that it's not enough to just get it done, and move on to the next big project, it's about taking a project you love and polishing it, refining it, making it stronger. Yes, it can be a daunting task. There are some days that I swear I'll never draw another bear again, but then I decide his expression could be tweaked or his posture could be changed, and it's back to the drawing board. Am I completely finished with revisions? No. If it gets picked up at a publishing company, it will likely go through many more revisions. But I'm no longer overwhelmed by such a task. When I look back at all the changes this story has gone through from the initial sketch that sparked the idea to where it is today, I'm quite proud of what it's become. I know any future changes will make me love it even more, and hopefully, someone else will love it, too.

nessa dee

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cloud 9

This past weekend I attended the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators working conference in Austin, and what an amazing two days. I've been attending this conference, as well as the SCBWI Houston conference every year since 2013. Each experience has been unique and an integral part of my illustration journey. I have gleaned so much from the numerous authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents that share their knowledge at these conferences. I've also found a wonderful community of authors and illustrators who are a great source of encouragement and inspiration.

This year I left the conference on cloud nine. Not only did I come away with a head chock full of new ideas, but I also took home the grand prize in the portfolio showcase! I am beyond excited and want to say a huge thank you to the judges, Candlewick Art Director Kristen Nobles, and Caldecott winning author/illustrator Molly Idle, for awarding me with such an honor, especially in a region that is full of extremely talented illustrators. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now it's back to the drawing board to take everything I soaked up at the conference and let it imbue my art.

nessa dee

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Life According to Gus

:: Can you take off my seat belt? [Referring to his belted pants]

:: Gus: I spy something blue it's Daddy?
    Me: Is it Daddy?
   Gus: Yes! Yea!! Good job!!
:: Audrie: I spy something silly.
   Gus [starts dancing]: Is it me?

:: This is the one last time bite. [His version of "one more bite"]

:: After taking a sip of his first ever Cherry Limeade...
   Gus: Mommy, this burns my throat! Here you try...
           [I take a sip]
   Gus: See how it burns my throat?
           [I take another sip]
   Gus: NO! Only one drink!

::  While using the bathroom...
     Gus: Mommy, I'm a dump truck.
      Me: How are you a dump truck?
     Gus: See, I dump water out of my penis, and dirt out of my bottom. :/

:: I'm going to measure my foot. [Steps on scale] My foot is 40.

:: Momma, close your eyes. I've got a surprise for you. [Leads me into his bedroom.]
   Just one second...
   Just two one seconds...
   It's going to be really great for you....
   and open!
  [Shows me a train which he proceeds to wreck]

:: Look at that bird, Momma! It's a Lockingbird!

This boy...he certainly keeps us on our toes, and entertained.


nessa dee

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fish Ice Cream

This illustration was somewhat inspired by a story my uncle told of trying fish flavored ice cream in Mexico. I'm can imagine that ice cream vendor was very popular with the towns cats.

nessa dee

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Today, this handsome face, my firstborn son leaves the realm of single digits, and enters the uncharted territory of double digits. 

Finn, you have a sweet, tender heart. You love to make jokes and you have an amazing memory. Your conversations are sprinkled with large, complicated words, which are used correctly about 50% of the time. You can be extremely confident and extremely shy. You are the ham in our family sandwich. You are my hugger, and I love being on the receiving end. 

Happy birthday, my favorite middle child! 
I love you so very, very much.